Matt LeBlanc explains why he turned down the role of Phil Dunphy on Modern Family. It’s not really too surprising that the producers of Modern Family would have been interested in LeBlanc, as fellow sitcom icon Ed O’Neill ended up joining the cast, so its clear that TV veterans were on the radar as far as casting went. LeBlanc had even worked with O’Neill during several guest appearances on Married with Children, so both being cast would have been a reunion of sorts.
While LeBlanc has been acting regularly in Hollywood since the late ’80s, he is, of course, best known for playing the lovable yet not too bright Joey Tribbiani on Friends, one of the most beloved sitcoms of all-time. So popular was Joey that he even got his own spinoff after Friends ended, but sadly, that proved to not be the greatest of decisions by anyone involved. Following Joey’s flame-out, LeBlanc took a few years off from the acting game, and really, it’s not like he needed the money at that point.
LeBlanc would eventually make his return to TV comedy with the Showtime series Episodes in 2011, playing a fictionalized version of himself. Between Joey’s end and Episodes’ beginning, though, LeBlanc tells USA Today that he received the offer to play Phil Dunphy in Modern Family. While LeBlanc loved the pilot script, he just didn’t feel like he was the right choice for the part. Here’s his reasoning:
“[The Modern Family pilot script] came across my desk with an offer to play Ty Burrell’s role. I remember reading it thinking, this is a really good script, (but) I’m not the guy for this. I’d be doing the project an injustice to take this. I know what I can do, I know what I can’t do. Plus, I’m having too much fun laying on the couch.”
While the world will obviously never know how Modern Family might have changed with LeBlanc in the Phil Dunphy role, it’s not hard to see why he was offered the part, as in many ways, wacky dad Phil is almost an older, romantically stable, and slightly smarter version of the often wacky Joey. Still, everything clearly worked out for the best, as Burell’s portrayal of Phil has garnered several Emmy nominations, and Modern Family is heading into season 9.
Interestingly enough, in that same USA Today interview, LeBlanc also revealed that he actually did go on to effect Modern Family in an indirect way. Back in 2012, LeBlanc offered Jesse Tyler Ferguson advice during tough Modern Family contract negotiations, stressing that the cast stick together when hammering out deals, as the Friends cast had done. The Modern Family cast did indeed negotiate together, and the rest is history.
Modern Family season 9 premieres September 27 on ABC.
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